December 24, 2021
The interscholastic athletics program in the Middle School, emphasizing sportsmanship, fitness, and camaraderie, is a cornerstone of the experience. Our beautiful campus allows us to encourage full participation in the fall when we offer cross country, boys and girls soccer, field hockey, and a tennis clinic. Three times a week, classes end early, and students change and head to practice.
At the same time, three-quarters of the faculty, including Kevin Boland, head of the Middle School, do the same. Though not required of Middle School faculty, many teachers choose to take on the additional responsibility of coaching anyway.
This year, Melissa Kistler, new to the Middle School faculty, decided to help out with cross country. An avid runner, she saw this as an opportunity to acclimate to the community and get to know students in a different context. “I have a passion for the sport,” she says. “I love to run, and I love sharing that with the students. It’s a perfect way to get to know them in a non-academic setting.”
Many teachers echoed her statements. Sixth-grade English and technology teacher Katelyn Burkman excelled in softball growing up and has coached various sports in the division. She enjoys coaching because she grew up loving sports and enjoys seeing students shine doing what they love to do. It gives her a chance to connect with those for whom the athletics period is their favorite time of the day.
Boland believes it is essential to schedule athletics into the regular school day, mainly since club and rec team sports absorb so much free time for many students outside of school. “I would hate for students to have to choose,” he says. “Playing on a school team helps forge relationships with other students, including students in other grades, and it builds a sense of school spirit.”
Participation in athletics is strongly encouraged, and this fall, every student is participating in athletics. Students can choose to play in the interscholastic games, competing against primarily Baltimore-area independent schools, or they can choose to participate only in the practice squad and skip the games. All experience levels are welcome, which allows some students to discover a passion for a sport they’ve never tried before.
For Boland, coaching is an opportunity to get to know the students outside of the classroom and address character through sportsmanship. “The idea of treating others fairly and with respect and putting others ahead of yourself extends beyond athletics. You learn those things on the playing field, but you can apply those lessons to every aspect of life.”
Anne Smith and Scott Doughty, both of whom have coached at the varsity level and continue to coach in the Middle School, agree.
“It’s such an important part of what we do in the Middle School—developing the whole child,” says Doughty. Adds Smith, “It’s an authentic real-life experience—you win or lose. It’s an extension of the classroom and a great opportunity to help students develop character and develop as leaders.”
The relationships coaches build with players certainly benefit the students, but teachers feel that these coach-athlete relationships help them as well, both personally and professionally. “You get to stay in touch with kids a long time after they leave the Middle School,” says Doughty. “It’s rewarding to see how far they go within the sport and also what they do in life.”